The metaverse – a largely undefined space based on virtual-reality (VR) and touted to become the next generation of internet – had already sparked plenty of interest worldwide. And for beauty, brands and experts were joined in their excitement for the plethora of opportunities in terms of consumer engagement, community building and creative empowerment.
But whilst promise was evident, everyone still agreed the space remained nascent.
The next generation of computing platform
Ian Edwards, global connection planning director at Meta, said new computing platforms tended to arrive every 15 years or so, with the last “fundamentally new platform” being the arrival of the iPhone in 2007. The metaverse, Edwards said, would likely be next.
“While 2022 is not the year of the metaverse, as 2007 was not the year of the phone, we believe it is the start of the beginning,” Edwards told attendees at Meta’s House of Instagram event during British Beauty Week.
“…2022 is the beginning of the change, not the change itself, and that is really, really important context. Change will come, hopefully we can agree on that, but what will it be like? And why will it lead to the metaverse?”
Because, he said, the metaverse solved the problems of its predecessors – critical for any new technology to scale and replace what went before.
Live connections and digital identities
Grace Kao, head of global business marketing for Instagram, said the metaverse, once fully established, would offer users fresh ways to experience live digital connections using Virtual Reality (VR) tech, stretching way beyond current video calling and instant messaging services.
“Anyone with experience in VR will know you feel so much more present, being able to dive into virtual spaces. I actually think this is really interesting for the communities on Instagram (…) You’ll be able to hang out with anyone, anywhere, and feel like we are present,” Kao said during the event.
And this evolution, she said, would also transform how users experienced live events. “On Instagram, we’re making live streaming more social, where people can comment and interact. But in the future, we will increasingly be able to feel like we are physically in a live space; where the event is happening, with other people all at different locations.”
Beyond this, Kao said the metaverse would offer richer storytelling potential and therefore more promise for creating digital identities, amongst individual users but also brands.
“A really important bridge will be around identity, and this will be a really important part of the metaverse. This is clearly an important area for the individual and it’s also a big opportunity for brands,” she said.
“As I’m sure you all know, avatars are the way we represent ourselves in the metaverse and this is an area where we are investing a lot of time and resources – to increase the options (…) How you show up is really important and we’re opening up opportunities for brands to be a part of this space.”
The rise of digital collectibles like NFTs [non-fungible tokens] would also build out potential for richer identities in the metaverse, she said – another area Instagram and Meta were focusing on closely.
Immersive experiences and experiential marketing
Overarching connection and identity was the concept of experience – an area that would soon become more immersive with the evolution of the metaverse, according to Edwards.
And this space that had already seen widespread innovation from major businesses and brands worldwide, he said. Balenciaga, for example, had presented its Autumn collections via VR – showcasing its latest pieces in a dystopian digital world and bringing a “really immersive experience to their audience”, he said.
What Balenciaga had done here was “just the start” of how the metaverse could “transform experiential marketing” on a significant scale with greatly reduced costs, he said.
Many other brands had also already started working with Augmented Reality (AR) to add a “level of depth” to campaigns, Edwards said, which helped move some hard metrics like consideration and conversion. More work with AR experiences might also lead to product innovation, he said, as brands worked harder on how to “show up” in the digital world.
“…I think this is just the start and there are many things in this space that are yet to come, and for us yet to imagine.”
A ‘process of exploration’ for brands
So, how far off was this world of immersive experiences and digital community? Likely over a decade, according to the Meta executive.
“We are clearly still a long way off, perhaps 10-15 years, from this being fully realised,” Edwards said. “Today, there are many new and exciting opportunities for brands to connect with their customers, and some of these that exist today will become the building blocks for the metaverse.”
This year and beyond, he said, was simply the start of the movement towards a fully-functioning and connected metaverse; it would just need “time to scale”.
In the meantime, he said there was plenty to get involved with and explore already. “Brands need to start working with more immersive technologies like AR; work with brands in this space to get a deeper, richer understanding of what is possible. And from this process of exploration, start to imagine what the metaverse could mean for your business and all of these incredibly exciting and interesting opportunities,” he said.
Beauty 4.0 Webinar
Interested in learning more about what the metaverse and digital technologies can bring to your beauty brand or business? Join us for our exclusive CosmeticsDesign Beauty 4.0 - Tech, Tools and Future Trends webinar next week where we will hear from Sephora, Shiseido, Orveon, Mintel and The Virtual Events Group about metaverse opportunities and much, much more. Register today for free HERE.